post : 2014.10.01 12:00
Chibana in Okinawa City is famous for its traditional Chibana hanaori, as a nationally-designated traditional craft.
In modern days, we have few opportunities to wear kimono, but in the community event of Chibana every year, Chibana hanaori has been worn as a formal festival costume. That’s how they try to pass down their traditional kimono to the next generation.
The traditional event is held on August 15 in the lunar calendar. Once a year, they wake up shishi (effigy of a lion-dog) ganashi, that has been stored in the Naakaufuya of Chibana while local women keep singing as they beat the usudeku drums.
Given a cup of awamori (Okinawan alcohol) by the president of residents' association, the shishiganashi parades around the community toward the community center, with members of the Chibana Usudeku Preservation Group.
Under the hot sun, elderly ladies beat drums vigorously.
At the community center, around 4 PM, their usudeku dance is dedicated.
They put on the Chibana hanaori kimono for the performance.
The songs sung along the usudeku dance are totally 12 songs, each of which has 3 verses. They say that most of the songs are moral ones.
What kind of moral songs do they sing? I wonder.
“Songs have many meanings. For example, “Stop hating someone you don’t like but have a generous heart.” Now we have electricity everywhere, but a song says “Collecting lights from fireflies to learn about many things for your future.” Every word in every song conveys a deep message.”
Life-enriching lessons have been passed down from ancestors through the songs.
The history lasted about 300 years.
In a circle, with the shishiganashi at the center, they sing 6 songs of usudeku throughout one hour in the first half of the event. After a break, they sing another 6 songs, totally 12 songs.
“If you continue usudeku dances, you can stay fine physically and health wise”, said the oldest female dancer, Hide Obaachan (we call “Obaachan” for an elder lady), who is 90 years old.
At the end, the shinganashi stood up and everybody danced the happy kachaashi (an Okinawan dance for celebratory occasions) to close the community festival.
Even after the event was over, the moral songs filled with the prayers of usudeku never stopped on my mind.
*Chibana Community Center
Address: 1-11-7 Chibana, Okinawa City
Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer Hiroshi Kuwamura (KUWA)